Police investigating possibility of 3rd suspect in Saanich, B.C., shooting
Police in Saanich, B.C., say they continue to investigate the possibility that a "third suspect" was involved in a fatal shooting at a bank that left two suspects dead and six officers injured Tuesday.
Police stressed that they do not believe there is any added risk to the public, however, and that investigators will continue to provide threat assessments when available.
As of Wednesday afternoon, three of the injured officers have been released from hospital, while three others continue to receive care.
Saanich Police Chief Const. Dean Duthie says the three officers still in hospital sustained "life-threatening" injuries Tuesday, and one officer remains in intensive care.
Those three officers have undergone surgery and will require several more, alongside months of recovery, Duthie says.
Duthie says Greater Victoria's emergency response team was not far from the Bank of Montreal when the report of the armed robbery call came in and were on scene in time to confront the suspects.
The police chief adds that explosive devices found inside a car linked to the suspects at the scene have also been disposed of.
Officers from the BC RCMP provincial explosive disposal unit (EDU) brought the explosives to the Hartland Landfill in Saanich and "safely destroyed" them, according to Duthie.
Some residents and businesses near the scene of the shooting were evacuated Tuesday after the explosives were found.
As of Wednesday, those homes and business remain blocked by police, as investigators comb the scene.
The sealed off area is on Shelbourne Street between Cedar Hill Cross Road and Donnelly Avenue.
"I attended the hospitals today and met with officers who are in there and their families," said Duthie. "They wanted me to extend their sincere thanks and appreciation to the public for their ongoing support. It means a lot to them."
The police chief said he was moved by the bravery of the officers, who belonged to both the Saanich and Victoria police departments.
"They ran towards live and active gunfire while human instinct is to run away from such imminent danger," he said.
Duthie also thanked other first responders who were at the scene, and the staff at two local hospitals who provided emergency care to the injured officers.
The RCMP's Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) has taken lead on the investigation.
Though considered an RCMP unit, the VIIMCU includes officers from the RCMP, as well as Victoria police, Saanich police, Oak Bay police, and Central Saanich police.
RCMP spokesperson Chris Manseau says investigators are treating the incident as an attempted murder.
He stressed that the investigation is in the "extremely early stages" and that investigators are still focusing on gathering physical and digital evidence.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the VIIMCU tip line at 250-380-6211.
Manseau added that it may take time for officers to respond to potential tips due to the volume of evidence being submitted.
"We respect that there is significant public interest in yesterday’s events, but at this time we are not able to confirm identities, background or motive," said Superintendent Sanjaya Wijayakoon of the BC RCMP Major Crime Unit in a statement.
"We do commit to providing future updates as the investigation progresses and where it is appropriate to share while ensuring the integrity of the investigation."
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is also conducting its own investigation.
The organization is called whenever a police-involved incident results in serious harm or death, regardless of if there have been allegations of wrongdoing.
POLITICANS EXPRESS GRATITUDE
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "saddened by the violence in Saanich" and was keeping the injured officers in mind, in a social media post Tuesday.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino noted the "tremendous sacrifice" made by the officers during the bank robbery, saying his thoughts are with the community and the officers.
Mendicino was speaking in Toronto, where he made an announcement on funding to combat gun and gang violence.
He said he has reached out to B.C.'s deputy premier, Mike Farnworth, and offered his support.
"It is yet another reminder that gun violence is impacting our communities every single day."
Area mayors of Esquimalt, Saanich and Victoria expressed their support for the "courage and selfless service" of those officers who ran toward the danger.
"To the officers who were injured and to their families, our thoughts are with you and we are sending love as you move through the following days, weeks and months in recovery," mayors Barb Desjardins, Fred Haynes and Lisa Helps said in a statement.
"We are humbled by your service and we offer our heartfelt thanks for your courage as you stood in harm's way to keep our communities safe."
Saanich's police chief said the incident is one that has "never been encountered here in this region" before.
"Having six officers of the Greater Victoria emergency response team injured in this violent exchange of gunfire – I'm sorry, it's an incident that's off the scales for what we have experienced in the past," said Duthie.
With files from the Canadian Press.
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